So the Alphabet City Wine Co. has been open for about a month now and all is well. It seems we have found the right location to offer a wine geek-selection that doesn’t price people out. Everyone that comes in seems to really dig the fact that we are here. I can’t tell you how awesome it is to see smiling faces return with words of praise for certain wines they have bought. We are getting to know our customer’s palates and the relationships are being formed. Everything we had hoped for is, so far, happening. So if anyone that is reading this has been into the shop and supported us thank you very much. We hope to continue on the assist.
To further the wine education we have decided to offer the “Wine Starter Kit.” Basically we look at our inventory and select six wines that generally represent the world of wine as a whole to kind of give the consumer a Vino primer. We also throw in a couple tools to help remember the good stuff. With the six wines we also provide a book to take notes in as well as a label remover with an adhesive back so you can just slap it on one of the pages and scribble away on the opposite page (Thanks for the insight Matt). We figure we will do a monthly pack to see how it goes and if it takes off we may switch to doing it bi-weekly or weekly. So let me give the rundown for the first “Starter Kit.” This month we are featuring six reds. We will eventually throw some whites in there but it is so cold out there and red seems to be what people are bee-lining for.
Malbec is our first wine and it comes from Argentina. More specifically from one of the most sought after wine regions in the country, Mendoza situated right at the foothills of the Andes mountains providing great moderate climates for ideal ripening and wonderful nutrients from the water run-off of the hills packed with old mineral deposits. All of these elements combine to make great malbec. And that is just what this is, a great malbec. The producer is Diseno and the bottle is a 2006 vintage. This bottle shows classic Argentine wine making featuring depth and power with a balanced structure. It is a full-bodied wine with cherries, vanilla and tobacco on the nose. It even has subtle hint of leather going on. And because of its deep yet vibrant it can go with a juicy steak or some juicy tapas.
The next wine is from Chile just north of Argentina. Historically one of the most important countries in South America for viticulture Chile along with Mexico (Yes, Mexico) and Peru were the first to experience wine cultivation due to the Spanish conquistadors. After the Spanish came the French. Claude Gay, a French immigrant set up a green house in Chile isolating many exotic plants as well as vitis vinifera vines including carmenere and cabernet sauvignon before phylloxera devastated Europe. This means that Chile has never really been affected by the parasite. The wine we are offering is a 2005 cabernet sauvignon from Quinta de Viluco from the Maipo Valley named after the river that runs through the Andes Mountains to the Pacific. It is a soft, approachable yet full-bodied wine with a nice subtle oak integration. This wine was definitely grown in a valley. It is a wonderful introduction to the cabs of this area.
Since we are talking about wine from mostly Spanish speaking countries I might as well talk about the Spanish wine in out starter pack. We have chosen 2003 Pagos De Infante 100% tempranillo from the Ribera de Duero located on the northern plateau along the Duero River. Yes, this is the home of the famous Vega Sicilia but these wines we have not hmmm (Yoda voice). Tempranillo in my opinion and to some others out there is the pinot noir of Spain (Thank you Mr. Price). It can be smooth and silky with complex subtleties or it can show a bit more with soft, gripping tannins and concentrated fruit yet always (when done well) retaining some sort of threshold in the balance. This particular one is of the soft, silky kind. Pagos De Infante is a medium bodied red wine with a well-rounded body of fruit intertwined with the tannins. The tannins actually feel as if they are mermaids swimming in figure 8’s through the bright red color of the wine. As the wine opens the tannins become more structured but never pass that threshold of silkiness. Yeah, so I’m really digging Spanish wine right now. Can you tell?
Our fourth wine in the Alphabet City Wine Co. Starter Kit is a French wine. We might as well tie it all up neatly before we move to Italy and the US considering we started with Argentina and Chile and the Claude Gay thing. I know it’s a bit cheesy but I just can’t help it. Okay moving on. Everyone knows about Bordeaux and most people are somewhat familiar with the pinot noirs of Burgundy. But there are a couple of other general areas of France that make great wine and are a bit off the radar…for now. I would like to talk about one of them. The two most affordable wine regions you will see in a shop are from the Rhone Valley and Languedoc-Roussillon. Our next offering is from the latter, specifically the Languedoc. This wonderful appellation is situated in the south of France along the Mediterranean Sea. It enjoys a maritime climate with a general soil composition of clay and calcareous limestone giving the wines a lean balanced structure. Whether red or white the minerality of the limestone comes through in the nose as well as the palate in the form of mild fruit and soft tannin structures.
The red varietals that define this region, syrah, carignan, grenache, mouvedre and to some extent merlot and cabernet sauvignon are always blended together is some way shape or form depending on the appellation or sub-appellation. But in 1987 the commission of wine growers in the Languedoc created a new designation to classify the wonderful single varietal wines of the area. They called it Vin de Pay d’Oc reflecting on the first tier classification in France Vin de Pay or country wine (the term country wine should by no means give threat to the quality of the wines). The last twenty or so years have been spent bringing these well priced wines into a solid quality category. So with that being said our fourth wine is a 2004 Domaine Gayda Three Winds Vin de Pay d’Oc syrah from the Languedoc. The nose of this syrah shows the soils and the climate with a wafting, comfy peppery spice and deep, subtle fruit. The palate is layered with dark fruit and an intertwining pepper that compliments the nose. It is a great everyday wine that goes well with meats such as lamb or even a burger yet can also be drunk on its own without overwhelming your senses.
Staying in the old world for now let’s make the fifth wine from another of Europe’s most important wine producing countries: Italy. “The Boot” can be…well…overwhelming for people. There are so many grape varieties for every region not including blends and international varieties sprinkled across. It seems that every year I am introduced to at least one or two new varietals from this amazing and important land of wine. So we thought we would keep it kind of simple but stay unique. I say keep it simple because we are offering a Chianti and I say unique because we are offering a good one. Now we are not trying to blowing are own horns here we are just saying that these days the word Chianti is bandied about like a Key Food twenty-five cent bouncy ball careening down a cobblestone street. The area itself has had a rollercoaster ride of a history filled with art, romance, corruption and renaissance. With that being said I wanted to find a Chianti that keeps true to its past and at the same time embraces the present. Not too polished but totally approachable. These characteristics were found in the Castello Di Meleto 2004 Chianti Classsico. It is 90% sangiovese, which is the main grape in this area with the rest being made up of canaiolo and merlot. The Sangiovese and the canaiolo give the wine a subtle power and the merlot softens and rounds it off making this a smooth medium to full body wine. It is great for this kind of weather and will go wonderfully with meats and mushroom dishes but can be enjoyed on its own showing really nice complexity.
And last but certainly not least we head west to California. Our sixth wine is not a cabernet sauvignon. It is not a pinot noir. Yes ladies and gentlemen our wine to top it all off is the wine that Miles supposedly scoffed in that film we all know so much about. Merlot sales have dropped 15% in the United States since Sideways was released and it’s just not fair. Merlot makes wonderful wines. Yes the poor thing has been over industrialized and exploited in the U.S. for a couple of decades now and the fad has worn off a bit but when Miles voiced his proclamation it only sealed the deal (I have a theory that I’m not able to dive too far into in this post but you can check out these links for ramblings on merlot versus pinot noir). This is one of the reasons why we chose this merlot. Another is that it is just damn good. And third it is not over priced (and still good). The producer is Cycles Gladiator located in the downright awesome central coast of California. I am just lovin’ this area of Cali for wines right now. Cycles Gladiator merlot is grown in Monterey County with a very nice morning fog from the coast, warm days and cool nights which is basically, in my opinion, the perfect climate for this grape. The wine is a 2005 and has a really nice subtle spiciness on the nose with a waft of deep cherry fruit. The palate is lush and deep and not over done. By over done I mean that you can actually tell it is a merlot. It’s also a great every day wine. And the label looks cool too.
Well there you have it. This is our first “starter kit” and we hope you enjoy the purchase. We are all about exposing wines that are great and don’t break the bank. Thanks for poppin’ by and I hope this lengthy post helps you appreciate the wines a little bit more. Cheers.


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